Fishkill Prison Guards Will Not Face Charges in ’15 Death of an Inmate

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From The New York Times:

Federal and local prosecutors said on Wednesday that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges in the 2015 death of a prisoner at the Fishkill Correctional Facility who died after an altercation with a group of guards there.

An autopsy classified the death of the inmate, Samuel Harrell, 30, as a homicide, and the prison had long been identified by inmate advocates as a place where officers routinely abused inmates.

But Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, said that prosecutors in his office had found “insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required for a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.” And William V. Grady, the Dutchess County district attorney, said his office had also found insufficient evidence to support a prosecution “under any state theory of homicide.”

“There is no video evidence of the altercation between Mr. Harrell and the corrections officers, and numerous eyewitness accounts of the incident, including those provided by inmates, are inconsistent and contradictory,” Mr. Kim and Mr. Grady said in a joint statement.

Given those factors and “inconclusive medical evidence of excessive use of force,” the statement said, “the Department of Justice could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any corrections officer willfully violated Mr. Harrell’s constitutional rights.”

On the night he died, April 21, 2015, Mr. Harrell had been acting strangely, the statement said. He packed his belongings and told corrections officers that he was leaving the prison, the statement said, even though there were years left on his eight-year sentence on a drug charge. He then ran head first into a locked exit door “before a group of corrections officers used physical force to apprehend and handcuff him,” the statement added.

A New York Times investigation several months after Mr. Harrell’s death cited 19 affidavits and letters written by inmates who said that he had been handcuffed and severely beaten by as many as 20 guards, some known around the prison as the Beat Up Squad. He was then thrown or dragged down a staircase, the witnesses said.  Read the full article here.